Google and Twitter are heroes this morning. Mubarak may have shut down the Internet, but now Egyptians can tweet away courtesy of a nifty workaround. Google and Twitter are pitching in to help Egyptians get out the word about what is happening in their country. Good on them.
I have always been ambivalent about Internet and other telecommunications providers going into countries where censorship prevails. For example, I was angry that Google agreed, at least at first, to enable censorship in China. I believed that the more principled stand was to refuse to do business at all. On the other hand, I recognized that having at least some Internet access to the rest of the world could help the Chinese snap the spine of the Party. Tough call.
These days, I lean more toward refusal to do business. I understand the pressures of keeping a company profitable, and I recognize how hard the decision to turn away from a lucrative market can be. A united front by providers against censorship, however, may hasten the inevitable collapse of authoritarian regimes the world over.
You know, it’s amazing how little we appreciate the burning desire on the part of human beings everywhere to be free. The protesters in Egypt may, if they succeed in ousting Mubarak, turn out to be just as bad as their present leader. A culture does not truly embrace liberty overnight. The lesson, though, is clear. People everywhere are motivated by basically the same drives: liberty and prosperity. I hope that whatever the outcome in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East, we see a giant step toward individualism and freedom.
Tweet on, my Egyptian friends. Tweet on.